2008 was a big year.

The Large Hadron Collider turned on (and didn’t end the universe as we know it, phew), the first Marvel movie was released, the stock market crashed, and Hulu was born.

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:

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?

He launched his landing page for Marketing for Developers, seen below in its 2015 glory:

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.”

Join a live demo to see why Podia is the best platform to sell your online course

See how Podia works and get all of your questions answered in an upcoming webinar on Tuesday at 4pm EST.

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A tinkerer by heart, audience resonance is a prominent feature of Justin’s business approach -- and it shows in the products he develops.

And he develops a lot of them.

How Justin keeps the hustle going with Podia

His membership program, the MegaMaker club, was born out of his earliest program with his podcast audience. It accounted for 28% -- or $53,200 -- of his revenue last year.

In total, it’s pulled in almost $83,000 over its lifetime, and combined with his digital downloads and online courses, he’s earned over $100,000 since joining.

His flagship course, Marketing for Developers, was born out of the landing page that helped turn him into a fully-fledged entrepreneur and the audience he developed through his blog and podcast.

But it’s not his only product in the mix. He also has a new book on the horizon, Tiny Marketing Wins, which is designed to deliver actionable, quick wins for small businesses.

Tiny Marketing Wins has an interesting history behind it. Initially started as an annual membership with videos, Justin dialed it back when he realized the form factor wasn’t jiving with his audience.

In fact, his audience played a direct role in shaping the upcoming book.

“They had this image of printing all of these tiny wins out, and every day peeling off a new one like the old "Far Side" calendar,” Justin tells me, “So I'm working on translating some of those video tutorials into chapter form. They're really short, and they're just actionable.”

As fans of short and actionable ourselves, we’re definitely on the list.

But besides hosting his products, how does Podia fit into his business, and how has it changed since he joined in 2016?

Similar to Becky Mollenkamp’s experience, he says he’s watched Podia shape itself directly from feedback from members like him, especially with the checkout experience.

“I wanted to be able to say, ‘This is the best checkout experience you can get on the web.’ And I think the team achieved it.”

It’s true. The checkout experience for customers on Podia is as frictionless as possible. After entering their email address, all they have to do is add their credit card information and any coupons, and then they’ve got their hands on the product.

You can see it in action on Justin’s Improve Your SEO course below.

Of course, that’s not all Podia has done to help Justin’s business grow. He also uses the platform for some very lucrative coaching sessions and bundles it with course access.

“I do these monthly coaching calls. So it costs $500 a month. You get one call with me every month. And it's great, because now I have this feed just for coaching clients, and they get access to all of my courses.”

The bundling feature is another big -- and convenient -- plus for Justin. “I used to create bundles manually. I just did a bootstrapper's bundle, because I'm doing this series on my blog,” he explains.

Now, instead of having to pull together products like his bootstrapper’s bundle with tedious administrative work, “I can just pick and choose and then launch that.” Bundles have helped a lot for his regularly scheduled sales periods like his birthday and Black Friday.

But the most pivotal feature that Justin loves about Podia? The new editor.

“It really allows you to build pretty robust landing pages. If I started Podia today as a new user, I'd probably seriously consider just using the built-in landing page editor and building all my pages inside of Podia.”

Here’s the really cool part about Justin’s success:

His business has been so prosperous with Podia that it helped him launch a new one, Transistor, with his existing customer base.

If you haven’t already checked it out -- and you should -- Transistor is a platform for podcasters that provides hosting, analytics, website design, and team management.

Basically, if it’s in any way related to a podcast, Transistor makes it happen.

“I would probably say, 70% to 80% of our early customers came from my audience,” Justin elaborates when asked about how his Podia customers impacted the recently launched platform, ”So pretty big actually. We just passed $2,000 in monthly recurring revenue.”

With results like that, Justin might want to consider a follow-up series to his upcoming book: big, beautiful marketing wins.

Justin's advice for going solopreneur

Like you would expect from someone who teaches others how to market their products, Justin has a lot of great advice for hopeful entrepreneurs.

Everyone he knows who’s achieved success in selling online courses or digital downloads had a few things in common. “Almost all of them had built up something beforehand and earned trust with a specific audience.”

Earning your audience’s trust before you build your product puts customers in the buying mindset when launch day rolls around, he explains.

“And, you know, when they finally released something, it was kind of like, ‘Oh, of course, you're going to release something now, and, of course, I'm going to buy it, because you've been talking about this forever or contributing to the community in this way forever.’”

But to deliver on that and get your audience to really resonate with your product, you need to understand them. It’s such an important facet to running an online business that he recommends it as your first course of action.

As for the next course after that, “I think if you have an idea of who you're serving and what they want, then I would say definitely sign up for Podia and try it.”

But what if you’re unsure about getting your feet wet with something like online courses and aren’t quite ready to dive in yet?

In that case, Justin has even more tactical advice for you: “The one thing I might say is I think the gateway drug to teaching online is teaching in person.”

Host a workshop, he recommends. It can be online or offline, but the important thing is that it’s a real-time event. “It’s a great way to test a lot of things out like who's the audience? What do they want? How do they respond to this? Do I have enough expertise to teach them anything?”

It’ll also help highlight the kind of results your students can achieve with your course, and those results can become selling points and value propositions down the road.

This advice isn’t just based on what he’s seen work for others, either. Justin has lived it, too.

“My very first course was called Build your Audience, and it was a live workshop that I did. And I just recorded it.” Afterward, people asked if they could buy it, so he put it up for sale, and a course was born.

Other ways to test the waters include volunteering and speaking at a local meet-up. “If people really respond favorably, it's likely that they would pay to get more in-depth, better video, and better resources.”

But we really like this piece of his advice -- for pretty obvious reasons: “If you're gonna host it anywhere, I would host it on Podia.”

Why?

It’s pretty simple in Justin’s eyes.

“There's no platform that does everything Podia does, that has a team that's this responsive to what makers want and need, or that has that same kind of experience. It's just unmatched.”

Written by

Len Markidan

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