2008 was a big year.
But most importantly, 2008 was also the year Justin Jackson started blogging. And while he didn’t know it at the time, that blog would mark the start of his journey to a fruitful career as a fully-independent entrepreneur.
That blog became a podcast. The podcast became a membership website. The membership website grew into a self-made business that sells online courses, digital downloads, and coaching calls.
Today, what started as a side-hustle has become a lean, profit-turning machine for Justin:
- $190,000 in revenue last year.
- $53,200 of that revenue came from his membership program.
- $500 earned monthly, per customer, for coaching calls and membership access.
- Over $100,000 accrued income from his storefront alone.
- $2,000 in monthly recurring revenue from a brand new side-business.
Like most great journeys, his path to success wasn’t easy. It involved a lot of late nights and early Saturday mornings. But the results -- as you can see above -- paid off.
And they’re still doing it.
Here’s how he got there and what you can learn from his success.
How Justin grew from blog to behemoth
Justin started his online voyage like a lot of us do with the quintessential “Hello World” post on a WordPress blog.
Covering the gamut from posts about entertainment, technology, his projects, and other creatives he ran into, he probably didn’t anticipate that his blog would be the first domino in a long series of cascading successes.
In fact, that blog and the people who interacted with it would become the source for his flagship products later.
As he started writing more on his blog, he began to gain traction, but it was slow going. He didn’t start to see the financial returns on his efforts until he launched a new podcast with long-time friend Kyle Fox called “Product People.”
Here’s a peep of its earliest days:
And it’s modern incarnation, still going strong:
“If you read my 2017 year-end review,” Justin explains, “It started in 2012, and there's a little bit of revenue. And then 2013, there's a little bit more, and then 2014, a little bit more, 2015, a little bit more.”
As the podcast’s audience grew, Justin began to notice some trends in who was listening in and commenting on his blog.
He was consistently attracting crowds that wanted to know more about the marketing side of product development. More and more, people would ask him about how to promote their products, both before and after their launch.
“So I started blogging about that more, and I just kept seeing this pattern of people asking me marketing questions but from a developer's standpoint,” he remembers.
That’s when it struck him to branch out and address that audience’s need with a book, but he had some reservations about it.
“I thought, ‘Okay, well, I'm working full time as a product manager, but I'll just put up a landing page.’ …. all I'd written was the sample chapter.”
Selling before you create is a time-honored tradition, but how did it work out for Justin?
And it went way better than he could have anticipated. When he saw the traction he was getting, he realized there was a real opportunity and market need.
Plus, it helped that he was (and is) a pretty big fan of his audience. “To be honest, I just really like software developers, I like technical people. I've always been a geek, I've always liked computers, I felt like we had a lot in common,” he says.
“But then I had this other dynamic, which was I understood product marketing. And so it just seemed like a good fit.”
Such a good fit that his ebook continues to be his most popular product today, in fact.
Encouraged by his success, Justin left his position as a product manager and made entrepreneurship his full-time job in 2016. The switch from side-hustle to full-hustle paid off big.
$146,000 in the first year big.
That’s not the only major event that happened for Justin’s business in 2016. He also joined Podia, then Coach, and started selling more than ever.
“At one point, I reached out to Spencer, because I wasn't happy with the provider I had already. All I could do was digital downloads. I couldn't do self-paced courses.”
He wanted a unified place where he could sell both and build his business the way he wanted -- not the way a platform dictated.
He also wanted something that could work with ConvertKit and automatically update tags when someone bought something. It continues to be one of his top-shelf marketing tools for his business today.
“I had this kind of list of things I wanted,” he recalls, “And Spencer, from day one, told me, ‘We want to support you as a maker. We want to craft this product around what people like you wanna do.’”
So with that pledge, he made the switch, and now his day-to-day is an open book that he gets to write the way he -- and he alone -- wants to.
Though just how he does that might surprise you.
How Justin juggles business with creativity
While many of us embark into online entrepreneurship to escape the 9-to-5, Justin says it’s vital for his business. Since making it his full-time job, it’s been his go-to schedule
“I think sometimes the struggle is there's this kind of wide-open day every day and every day is a blank slate. And that sounds amazing to a lot of people. It definitely has a lot of advantages,” he explains.
“But the disadvantage is that you are always betting your time on hoping for a future reward, especially if you're building courses, writing books, or running a membership site.”
And Justin would know. His business, which netted him $190,000 in revenue last year, includes all three components.
So how does his 9-to-5 play out?
Like most parents, he wakes up and goes through the morning rush to get his kids off to school.
After that, he bikes down to an office he rents to do his work. From there, “I'm writing, I'm doing customer support for all the things I've done, I'm running the membership site, I'm planning when the next course launch is going to be or the next book launch.”
It’s a rinse and repeat process for him, he says.
But while his day may sound surprisingly routine, a creator’s life always come with an element of surprise.
“Sometimes your bets don't pay off. And so there's always a little bit in the schedule of working on something, hoping it works, and sometimes using old things that have worked and reviving those.”
And every day, he has to finesse that part of his schedule into a way that makes the most sense for his business.
“Because every day is basically a blank slate, I have to decide how I'm going to best spend my time. And if I don't spend it wisely, if I do too much exploration, for example, and not enough executing on something that people will buy, then there's a consequence to that.”
Fortunately, he doesn’t have to face or figure out the consequences alone.
“One nice thing about Podia is you can see your progress. You'll launch one thing and go, ‘Okay, well, wow, that did pretty good.’ And then you'll launch something else, and you go, "Oh, wow, that didn't do as good."
The Sales Dashboard, demonstrated by our Spencer Fry below, makes tracking those results a breeze.
“It gives you a lot of flexibility to see what kind of pricing strategies work and what kind of products resonate with your audience.”