UPDATE: This review of Zero to Launch has been updated to share the most recent results from 3.5 years of using the program to grow my online business. Keep reading to find out more!
In August of 2011, I was working as a code monkey in a 300-people tech company in Slovenia, making $7/h. As I just recently got a raise, I was making more than a thousand dollars a month. Whoa!
Why “Whoa!”? Well, I was a university student, living at my parents with practically no living expenses… So all of a sudden, I had all this money coming my way and I had NO IDEA what to do with it. I didn’t want to waste it on something stupid like buying a new car or a phone.
I decided to reach out to a self-development blogger that I was following at the time, Scott H Young, and here’s what he advised me to do:
When I received his book, I still wasn’t sure whether I could trust this guy or not. It was in fluorescent orange and yellow colors, and Ramit wasn’t even wearing shoes in the picture.
Over the last few years, I took numerous online courses which gave me some amazing results:
In fall of 2011, I took Earn1k, which helped me start my own consulting business and move from earning $7/h in a cubicle to earning $125/h by helping people become more productive and changing their lives in the process.
Ramit’s 6-Figure Consultanting System helped me take the things to the next level – in just one month, I managed to double my monthly revenue and by now I’m working at $250/h – this means that I can cover my minimum monthly expenses by working just 1 hour a week! Yes, that’s a 4-hour work MONTH for me.
If you want to know more about how I went from earning $7/h to $250/h, check out my podcast with Navid Moazzez. We also talk about Zero to Launch and how to get from 0 to 500 e-mail subscribers in a month.
Note that as I am writing this review, I don’t get a cent from it – you will find no affiliate links in it or anything of that sort. It’s really just my honest review of the course.
Here’s what’s included in this review:
What is Zero to Launch?
Results from 1 year of Zero to Launch
Lessons from 1 year of Zero to Launch
Results from 1.5 years of Zero to Launch
Lessons from 1.5 years of Zero to Launch
Lessons from working with Ramit Sethi for 2 years
Results from 3.5 years of Zero to Launch
Lessons from 3.5 years of Zero to Launch
Is Zero to Launch right for you?
Let’s dive in!
What is Zero to Launch?
Zero to launch is about taking the knowledge that you have, creating an online product out of it and then sharing it with hundreds or even thousands of people.
I was super excited when I got offered to beta-test this course because even though I was making more than enough money with my consulting business, there were only so many clients that I could work with 1on1.
I also felt like I was saying the same things over and over again – so why wouldn’t I just record them and make a video course out of them?
Well, I’ll tell you why… Because I tried doing that in the past. But I thought that in order to do that, I needed to have a fancy website, professionally hosted videos, a complicated billing process… and of course I never actually managed to put anything together because I didn’t know where to even start.
With Zero to Launch, we went through a step-by-step process that helped me set up my website from scratch, build my e-mail list and sell my first products.
Let’s dive into a few specific examples of what I learned during Zero To Launch:
1. Do I need to invest thousands of dollars into a customized website?
Before Zero To Launch, I thought that I needed a fancy, personalized website and I actually spent more than $500 getting one. I also spent more than 100 hours tweaking font colors, setting up archive pages and fixing small details like having 5 posts on one page instead of 10.
Here’s an image of my old website (you can even click this link to see what it looked like).
During Zero to Launch, I paid $50 for a Genesis template and got the website set up in a matter of days so I could focus on actually producing content for my readers.
2. How many blog posts should I write a week?
At my old website, I wrote a ton of blog posts. At one point, I even wrote daily tips for my readers… like “take a walk”, “drink water” and “clean your work environment”. Meh. It wasn’t high quality content, and it wasn’t driving much traffic to my website. I blogged for about 6 months, and I got to about 50 e-mail subscribers total.
Now, I have more than 1600 subscribers on my e-mail list and I have just a few blog posts up there. In fact, I managed to get 500 subscribers with just TWO blog posts that were one month apart!
I give the majority of my content out for free via my blog and e-mail list, even content that I could potentially sell, because I know that there’s a lot more where that came from.
3. Should I use SEO, Facebook, Twitter or something else to drive traffic to my website?
Before Zero to Launch, I thought that I needed to do EVERYTHING to drive traffic to my website. I didn’t want to miss out on people who would see my blog on Twitter or Facebook.
Now I know that I just have to focus on what works for me. I actually deleted my Twitter account and I don’t really use Facebook all that much because I know that those techniques were under-performing against other ones.
This allows me to focus on what actually works for me (mostly guest posts and podcasts). I’m not sure what will work for you, but by investing more time into what worked for you in the past, you will be able to get much better results.
4. If I’m stuck on something, what do I do?
I told you before that I wanted to create this big online course that had a complicated billing system, professional videos, etc… but I just didn’t know who to talk to about my next steps. There is so much information out there in the internet, but how do you know what really works?
With Zero to Launch private community, I was able to get first-hand advice from people like James who have already sold online courses before. By having a short chat, I was able to move on to taking action instead of being paralyzed by not knowing which information is right and which isn’t.
And if I wasn’t really sure about something, I could always ask a question in the Facebook group and even get first-hand feedback from Ramit!
5. How do I know if anyone will actually buy my product?
I have a friend who actually spent a year or so (and thousands of dollars) on developing a product. A few months ago, he launched it. Guess how many people bought it? ZERO. Now he’s trying all kinds of different things to “fix” the product, but he still isn’t making any money.
Because he didn’t validate his idea before-hand. He didn’t ask anyone if they would actually be interesting in something like that (or be willing to pay for it). When I advised him to do that a while ago, he said that “he wants to keep it a secret”.
With Ramit’s idea validation framework, I was able to know very soon whether my idea was a good one and if someone would actually buy it. And since then, I have actually managed to develop a few products and successfully sell them!
6. Ok, this looks cool… But will I actually be able to make any money with Zero to Launch?
With my old blog, I was able to make about $20 with Amazon affiliate links. That’s it. No consulting clients, no product sales. I had no idea how to even monetize my blog.
Since Zero to Launch, I have already launched a few products and I got sales like this:
How is your life different since Zero to Launch?
The biggest difference for me is probably earning money in my sleep. It’s such a great feeling to wake up to e-mails like this:
With my latest product, I managed to get enough sales to cover my monthly rent in just 4 days!
I’m also able to work from anywhere I want to, at any time – whether it’s from a coffee shop or from business class on a plane.
Results from 1 year of Zero to Launch
Since writing this review, a lot has changed. I’m going to show you the results and the lessons that I’ve learned in one year since I joined Zero to Launch.
Revenue: $40,000 in a year.
Over the last year, I have successfully launched 2 online products, as well as a few 1on1 coaching programs for entrepreneurs. In 2014, I’ve made over $40,000 in profit just through this blog.
Of course this didn’t happen over night. For example, here’s what the process looked like for creating my first product:
- In February, I launched a small, live 2-hour workshop that was sold for $49.
- In April, I took the feedback from the workshop and extended it into a 4-week online course, which was also sold for $49.
- In June, I reached out to some of my mentors and advisers and recorded eight 60-minute interviews that I added to the course and created a master level of the course, which was priced at $97.
- In July, I decided to raise the price of the course to $97 (pro level) / $197 (master level).
- In 2015, I will redesign the core 4-week course with the feedback I got from my students over the last year, to make it even more valuable.
Still, once the hard work is done up front, you can reap the benefits of your hard work for months, if not years to come.
The beauty of it was that once you put in the work and create a great product, you can automate the majority of the sales process, “make money in your sleep” and reap the benefits for months or even years to come.
Over 2,200 new e-mail subscribers
Over the last year or so, over 2,200 new readers joined my e-mail list. To be honest, I would have liked this to be a bit higher, and I know that if I focused primarily on growing my e-mail list, I could easily get to 5,000-10,000 subscribers.
But here’s the thing: I chose not to. Instead of creating a $50 product that would be “ok” and massively promoting my website. I decided to take the time and get feedback from my readers. I got on a call with over 50 students who joined one of my e-mail courses, I asked them what they liked and what they didn’t like about the course, and what they would like to see in it in the future.
This helped me improve my sales copy to improve sales conversions, 4x the price of my course, as well as improve my product so my students can get better results.
Now take a look at the graph below:
I get 100-200 new e-mail subscribers each month.
You can see that even though I focused primarily focused on creating a really good product this year, I still consistently got 100-200 new e-mail subscribers a month.
How did that happen?
Did I do some kick ass SEO? Did I buy Facebook ads? No, I have no idea about any of those things.
I got a consistent stream of new website visitors (and subscribers) because I created great content like My Quick Guide to Surrounding Yourself With Successful People that my readers loved, returned to, and shared with their friends.
That’s one of the things that separates Zero to Launch students from other bloggers. They write incredibly valuable content that their readers love, share, and take action on.
I finally have a lifestyle that I always wanted to have
Making decent money is great, but money isn’t really that helpful if you don’t have a lifestyle that you would really enjoy.
I’ve written briefly about this before, but now my life is completely different than it was a year ago.
A year ago, I was doing ok. I was making a few times more money than an average salary in Slovenia, I could go eat at fancy restaurants, and I was my own boss.
Still, there were a few things I didn’t really enjoy. For example:
- I had to work around the schedules of my clients, so sometimes I would need to wake up at 6am to have a call, or stay up until 3am even though I wanted to sleep at that time.
- I needed a really good internet connection for my calls, so I couldn’t do as much travelling as I would have liked to.
- When I had 15 clients and I spoke to them once or twice a week, I came close to a 40-hour work week, and I didn’t make any money unless I did coaching calls.
Now, things are different. Now, I can literally work whenever I want, however I want, and whenever I want. I can wake up at 7am or 1pm. I can work from Slovenia, San Francisco or Thailand. In fact, last August I went to Thailand for 1 month with a friend of mine on a week’s notice.
I recorded a new video course in Thailand last August.
Grabbing lunch with Selena Soo in NYC
Click here to read my profile on Business Insider.
Lessons from 1 year of Zero to Launch
I’ve showed you some of the results from Zero to Launch program, and now I’m going to share with you two of my biggest lessons that I learned within the last year.
1. You don’t need 100,000 e-mail subscribers to make a good living.
For a long time, I thought that I needed to have hundreds of thousands of e-mail subscribers if I wanted to work on my business full time. It felt so out of reach and unrealistic that I would ever get there.
But now that I’ve created my own business, and made over $40,000 in a year with only 2,000 e-mail subscribers, I can see that there’s another way.
it’s possible to make a good living, even if you have a relatively small e-mail list. What matters much more than the quantity of the people that you get on your e-mail list is the quality of the subscribers.
For example, there are many “internet marketers” out there that use Facebook ads to drive Facebook readers to fishy websites where they somehow trick them into collecting their e-mail address. As you can imagine, even if you trick 10,000 people into giving you their e-mail address, they probably won’t open many of your e-mails and buy many of your products if you start selling to them right away.
On the other hand, if you have 1,000 e-mail subscribers that…
- Have seen a guest post from you on a blog of a blogger that they have been following for years.
- Loved the posts on your blog, so they decided to join your e-mail list.
- Were blow away by the FREE e-book you have given them as a gift for signing up to your e-mail newsletter.
What will THEY think to themselves?
I bet it’s something along the lines of, “oh wow, if this guy’s free material is this good, then I can’t imagine how good his products are. let me check them out!”.
And that’s how you can make much more money with a high quality e-mail list of 1,000 subscribers than with a low quality e-mail list of 10,000 e-mail subscribers.
2. Build relationships with other bloggers.
Last year, I was introduced to Navid Moazzez from the Lifestyle Architects Podcast. Navid and I did a podcast episode together, and at that point we could have just parted our ways and never spoken again.
But we didn’t.
Instead, we decided to help each other out in any way we could to help grow each other’s businesses. So I introduced Navid to a few friends of mine who I thought would be great candidates for his podcast. When I asked Navid to introduce me to some podcasters, he happily connected me with 10 amazing podcasters.
I later did a great interview with him for his Branding Summit, which turned out to be one of the biggest online summits on personal branding out there. And when I talked to a Business Insider journalist that asked me who else has an amazing story that she can share with her readers, he was the first person to come to my mind, so I gladly sent over an introduction.
An interview I did with Navid for his Branding Summit
If you’d like to learn more about how to connect with other successful bloggers, read my 10,000+ word guide that I wrote on this topic.
Results from 1.5 years of Zero to Launch
Whoa! Another 6 months have gone by since my last update, and A LOT has changed in my business that I want to share with you in this update. Let’s dig right into it!
Revenue since starting ZTL: Over $80,000
In my one year update, I mentioned that I earned over $40,000 in the first year since starting Zero to Launch. Well, in the following 6 months, I also earned over $40,000, bringing the total revenues since starting Zero to Launch to over $80,000.
The revenue graph for the last 6 months of running my ZTL business
- It took half the time to go from $40,000 to $80,000 as it did to go from $0 to $40,000.
- Whereas a big chunk of revenue from the first $40,000 was from coaching, the second $40,000 came exclusively from selling online products.
- While I was focusing on Zero to Launch full time last year, I ran it as a side business over the last 6 months. On average, I spent less than 5 hours/week on this business, and now 90% of my business is automated.
Year one is learning, year two is earning, year three is growing.
This is one of the things that Ramit mentions in Zero to Launch:
- During the first year of Zero to Launch, you will mostly spend time on understanding your target audience, finding your profitable business idea and creating and selling a $50 or a $200 product.
- During the second year of Zero to Launch, you will already have a validated business idea, a few thousand e-mail subscribers on your e-mail list and start creating higher tier ($500 products). This will allow you to start earning some serious money (enough to leave a full-time job if you wish to).
- During the third year of Zero to Launch, you will likely have thousands of e-mail subscribers on your e-mail list, connections in major publications that constantly bring new traffic to your website, a few online products, and perhaps even a flagship product that costs $1,000-$3,000. This will allow you to rapidly grow your business to multiple 6 figures and beyond.
This was definitely true for me. During the first year of ZTL, I was still learning and trying to figure out my exact niche that I can fill. I created a few $50-$200 products and a few coaching programs. One product performed well, another one was a flop.
During the first half of the second year of ZTL, I started to understand my exact niche that I want to help and how I wanted to serve them. This made it easier to start creating higher tier products (I launched a $500 product this year) while still hitting good conversion rates. All of a sudden, making good money with my business became much more effortless. I knew I could create something that people really want, and they actually WANTED to learn from me.
Now, I’m confident that I will earn more than 6 figures this year exclusively from selling online products. And next year, I’ll hit multiple six figures with my side business. It’s not a matter of “will my business be successful or not?”.
I have a SYSTEM that works. I know my target audience and what they want. I have a great product for them. If I just focus on growing my list and possibly adding in an additional higher tiered product in the future, the math will work for me, and the revenue will come in.
Why I stopped doing 1on1 coaching and transitioned to focusing 100% of online products
If you want to grow your business fast (and pay your bills or invest into your business), 1on1 coaching is one of the easiest ways to do it. As you’re selling personalized access to you and not just a video course and the perceived value of your time is higher than a video, it can actually be much easier to sell a $1,000 coaching program than a $200 online product.
Many Zero to Launch students like Selena and Nagina earned multiple 5 figures with running coaching programs, and for me coaching definitely represented a big chunk of revenue in my first year of Zero to Launch.
However, since my time became more limited in 2015 (more on that later), and I wanted to really make a bigger IMPACT and help tens of thousands of people around the world, I decided to discontinue doing any 1on1 coaching. It means turning down new clients and saying no to extra revenue which was certainly hard, but in the end I knew that if I focus my efforts into growing my list, creating new products and helping more students, I could easily surpass the revenues that I would be able to earn with coaching.
And I did.
Behind the scenes of a $20,000 product launch
While I did create a few $50-$200 online products in 2014, I always wanted to do something more. I wanted to create a “flagship course”, a $500 product that would be really detailed and bring in 5 figures or more with just one product launch. Deep down inside, I knew I COULD do it, but in all honesty, I was afraid to do it so I delayed creating and launching it for quite a few months.
Just like everyone else, I had a TON of invisible scripts that were holding me back:
- Can I really launch a $500 product?
- What if nobody buys it?
- What if I can’t do a 2-week product launch?
- What if my copy sucks?
- My last product idea came out worse than expected… How do I know that this one will work better?
Luckily, with the help of Selena Soo and a few other mentors and advisers, I managed to overcome my own invisible scripts and successfully launched the product.
So in the end of April, I launched my new online product: Skyrocket Your Side Business. This was a 8-week, $500 online products that had two options: A $500 one-time payment or 3*$200 payments.
The math behind a $20,000 product launch
At the time, I had around 3,500 e-mail subscribers on my e-mail list. I really had NO idea how the product would perform. I ran the maths and had 3 possible scenarios:
- In worst case, I would get something like 3 sales and make $1,500 with the product.
- In an OK scenario, I would hit a 0,5% conversion rate and make around $10k. This would give me my first 5-figure product launch, and I would be happy with it.
- In a GREAT scenario, I would hit a 1% conversion rate (which I felt like was possible, but didn’t want to get my hopes up too much to avoid being too disappointed), and make $20k or more.
When I launched the product, it was nerve-wracking. Over the first few days of the launch, I got 1 or 2 sales a day. OK, at least I got some sales. Maybe this won’t be a complete disaster :).
I knew that the majority of the sales usually come in on the last 1-2 days of the launch, but I still wasn’t sure if that would actually happen.
On Thursday (second to last day of the launch), sales started coming in more consistently. On Friday, they poured in.
When I woke up on Saturday morning, I analyzed the stats:
- People pitched: 3,500
- Sales: 35
- Conversion rate: 1%
- Total revenue (including extra revenues from a 3 month payment plan): $20,200
The result surpassed my wildest expectations. I actually managed to have a $20k product launch. I was so excited I started uncontrollably dancing in my room. Then, I invited all of my friends out to lunch to my favorite restaurant, and we celebrated with lots of wine and champagne.
And just in case you were wondering, here are the actual sales from the launch (notice how most sales come in on the last two days… it’s nerve-wracking to wait for that final spike that tells you whether your launch will be successful or not.
The sales from my product launch (a few thousand dollars came in the following months through payment plans)
Why I chose to stop being a full-time business owner and turned my business into a side-business
In December of 2014, something happened that drastically changed my trajectory of my career.
Before that, if you asked me to work in a full time job, I would laugh at you. And I still would right now. I always wanted to be my own boss and to have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world, at any time I wanted (I love sleeping in and traveling, so this is very important to me).
But then, one day I found out that Ramit was looking to add a special coaching program to Zero to Launch where a coach would help students progress with the course faster. It was called Zero to Launch Accelerator.
While I really didn’t want to have another “job” ever again in my life, I knew that working together with Ramit and his team was something I always wanted to do, and something that would help me rapidly improve my online business skills.
At the time, I was also doing some business coaching on my own, and while had a round 13 1on1 coaching clients, I knew that I wanted to help more than just 10 people. As an Accelerator coach, I could make a much bigger impact and coach thousands of Ramit’s students, who I knew were all very ambitious and would happily take my advice and get awesome results with their businesses.
In the end, it was a no-brainer for me, and I applied for the position and got it. And so, I became the Zero to Launch Accelerator coach.
My interview with Ramit for Zero to Launch Accelerator students
I still spent around 5 hours per week on my side business, mostly on Sunday mornings. Still, because of all the systems I have set up in the past and because I know how to spend my time as efficiently as possible, I managed to earn over $40,000 on the side over the last 6 months with my ZTL business (and I write about 8 key strategies that I used to keep growing my business even with very limited time investment in my FREE Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Star Student in Online Business Courses).
Zero to Launch Accelerator: The most fun and exciting project I ever took on
In 2015, I helped Ramit launch the new Zero to Launch Accelerator program. In a few words, Accelerator gives Zero to Launch students everything they need to rapidly accelerate the growth of their online business – from software that makes it easy for you to set up a website within hours, to tens of hours of real-life case studies and advanced strategies that you can use to grow your business faster, to a private community of the most ambitious Zero to Launch students – and of course, personalized business coaching.
Over the last 6 months or so, I worked closely with some of the most ambitious Zero to Launch students. I helped them with their business ideas, blog posts, and even sales copy. And it’s been so great to be able to share my experiences and advice with them, to see them implement it and get awesome results.
One student recently went from Zero to a $1,000 product launch in just 10 weeks. Another one just got featured on a high traffic website and got over 300 new e-mail subscribers within a few days to grow his list by 67%. It’s incredible to be able to give back to these students and see them grow.
Zero to Launch Accelerator is perhaps the only thing I really missed when I went through Zero to Launch. I know it’s an awesome program in it’s own, but I feel like having a coach that can directly give you feedback on your business can really help you grow your business so much faster (just as I mentioned earlier that my mentors and advisers helped me create a $20,000 product launch).
Now, all of those things are great. It’s awesome to work with ambitious students and share my knowledge and experiences with them. But guess what’s even better?
Meeting them in person.
Over the last few months, I went out of my way to meet as many of Accelerator students in person as possible. When I did some traveling around the US, I hosted meet ups with my students in Washington DC, Miami and Philadelphia. Then, since a lot of my students requested me to come to UK, I booked a flight to London UK and stayed there just for one day so I could connect with my students (even if it meant spending $500 out of my pocket on the flight and hotel).
Since the students loved these meet ups, we decided to host an even bigger meet up in June in NYC, where Ramit would join us for a few hours as well.
Meeting my students at the Accelerator meet up in NYC
Because I really wanted to make this event as awesome for the students as possible, I reached out to some of the fellow Zero to Launch Case Studies (Naveen, Selena and Nagina), as well as my good friends Marc Aarons and Navid Moazzez to have a 1-hour Q & A for the Accelerator students.
Star Student Q & A at Zero To Launch Accelerator Meet Up NYC
Hot seats with Ramit at Zero To Launch Accelerator Meet Up NYC
NORMAL PHOTO WITH RAMIT!!!
- Traveling the world AND meeting awesome people: Traveling is great, and I love doing it. But it’s 10x more fun if I can hang out with other business owners that I can help (or learn from) while doing it.
- Constant challenges: In the second part of last year, running a business became a bit boring and maybe even “too easy”. I realized that if I really want to get the most out of myself, I need to constantly have new challenges ahead – whether that means taking on a new project, planning an event or running a community of hundreds ambitious Zero to Launch students.
- Giving back and making a big impact: If I’m completely honest, I could probably make much more money if I focused 100% on my business right now. However, at this point if I earn 2x or 3x my current income, I’m not going to be 2-3x happier. That’s why I focus on doing things that can help a lot of people on a big scale, even if that means that I can’t stay at Four Seasons all the time. It just makes me a ton happier to hear success stories from my students than to eat lobster & steaks every day.
Lessons from 1.5 years of Zero to Launch
Just like I learned a lot of new things over the first year of running my online business, I definitely learned a ton during the last 6 months as well.
Here are some of the most important lessons I learned:
Lesson #1: Automate!
When I originally launched my first products, I kept them extremely low tech. I used Google Drive to give students access to the course, which was free and low-tech, but the downside was that I had to manually add students to the course. This was OK in the beginning, but it became very frustrating over time.
The membership area for my new course is much nicer now!
- New readers find me through epic guides like this one, media mentions and other blogs.
- Most interested readers subscribe to my e-mail list and get new e-mails and free e-books automatically delivered to their e-mail lists.
- Some readers decide to purchase some of my products, and they automatically get access to them through the automation rules I have set up.
Note that I would still recommend starting low tech – you can use cheap, simple solutions that don’t require a huge financial or time investment so you can keep the momentum going (just don’t be cheap when it comes to hosting, as it sucks when your website crashes when you get a lot of traffic and you miss out on new e-mail subscribers ;)).
However, once you start earning multiple 5-figures with your business, you should definitely try to automate as much of the process as possible, so you can really just focus on growing your business.
Lesson #2: Don’t do things that aren’t the best use of your time
When I first started out, I did EVERYTHING in my business – from designing worksheets and e-books, to sending out e-mails and blog posts.
Now that my time is much more limited and I can only invest a few hours a week into my side business, it makes sense for me to delegate as much work as possible to others, so I hired an intern to help me out with parts of my business.
Now I don’t have to do things like:
- Designing my worksheets and e-books
- Converting my course videos to audio files and uploading them to membership sites
- Sending out e-mails and blog posts
My intern designed my Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Star Student in Online Business Courses, and he did a better job than I ever could.
Lesson #3: Ask for help
Asking for help has been HARD for me.
As I got more and more successful, it became harder and harder for me to ask for help because of these scripts:
- “I should know these things. I will look stupid if I ask this question.”
- “I can just figure this out on my own”
- “I don’t want to waste other peoples’ time”
And because of this, I forgot how much I love helping other people who constantly take action (and that others love helping me for that reason as well).
I feel like over the last half of a year, I became much more vulnerable and open, and because I actively reach out to my mentors and advisers and hire coaches that help me with things I’m not great at, it makes it much easier for me to keep growing and improving myself.
That would be my last lesson for you: If you want to grow your business fast, ASK FOR HELP. Reach out to ZTL Case Studies. Connect with students who are one or two steps ahead of you (ZTL Accelerator is great for this). Post your questions that you have in the ZTL Private community.
Being vulnerable will suck, but once you get over the uncomfortable feeling, you will really be able to improve on your weaknesses that are holding you back from building a successful business faster.
Lessons from working with Ramit Sethi for 2 years
In December of 2016, after 2 years and a week, I stepped down from my position as the Accelerator coach & manager and moved back to running my own online business that I built with Zero to Launch full time.
In 2 years of working as the Accelerator manager, I developed it into a 7-figure online product practically out of nothing. When I left, there wasn’t a single thing in common with the original version of Accelerator.
I hired and trained a new team (a copywriting coach and a community manager). Together we designed a brand new program that includes tens of hours of live coaching calls each week across different time zones. For $1,000/year, it’s hard to beat that. I don’t think there’s a similar coaching program out there, and if you do join Zero to Launch, I strongly recommend joining Accelerator as well. It’s a no brainer.
Now that I’ve left the program, there’re new coaches helping people out, and it’s amazing to see how much my old students have grown and improved when I hear from them. I’ve truly built a legacy and changed hundreds if not thousands of people’s lives, which feels amazing.
So why did I leave?
It’s simple – I was always an entrepreneur by heart. I always loved the idea of running my own company, being my own boss, and playing by my own rules. While I had a ton of autonomy in developing and growing Accelerator, at one point I realized that I just needed a new challenge.
I needed something new to get me fired up and put me outside of my comfort zone, and going back to running my own business seemed more compelling to me than climbing the ranks in a company. So I had a heart to heart conversation with Ramit and we both felt like the best thing to do was part our ways.
I only have good things to say about working with Ramit and his company. I learned an unbelievable amount about what it takes to run a multi-million dollar online business, the type of knowledge you can only gain from being in the trenches of one. Ramit and the team were always kind, professional and fair.
We even got spoiled by yearly retreats to Vegas and Portland which were incredible (watching a Portland Trailblazers NBA game from a suite and partying all night in Bellagio, inches away from the fountain are once-in-a-lifetime experiences I’ll never forget).
If I had to go back in time and make the decision to work with Ramit again, I’d say yes without hesitation.
There’s so much I learned from working with Ramit over the 2 years that I could write a 10,000 or 20,000 word post about it, but for the purpose of this post I’ll just stick with my top 3 lessons.
Lesson #1: People come for the product, but stay for the community
It’s funny, I first head this phrase back in 2013 when Marie Forleo mentioned it at the Behaviorcon conference. At the time, I thought “yes! that makes so much sense!”, but I never really internalized it. I don’t think you can internalize it until you experience it yourself.
Since Accelerator is a subscription product, one of our main focuses was retaining as many students in the program as possible. The more students we would retain, the more the revenues of the program would grow, and the stronger the community would become.
Now in order to retain the students in the program, they need to be engaged and continue using it. If they’re not using it, it’s only a matter of time until they leave (and since all you need to do to cancel your subscription is send an email and not physically go to a gym, it’s really not that hard to do it).
On the other hand, we also noticed that the students that were the most engaged in the program, always posting in the community, attending the coaching calls and putting in the work were getting the best results. We made the assumption that having a more engaged community would make more of our students stay in the program.
That’s when we brought on our community manager, Diana. Diana is the complete opposite of me. While I sometimes tend to be shy, straightforward and not have many emotions, Diana was outgoing and empathetic, and spread this energy throughout our community, which allowed the students to really open up, start trusting each other, and work through the mental barriers preventing them from starting and growing their business.
I soon realized that Diana is REALLY good at building online communities. She recently wrote an incredible Ultimate Guide to Starting Your Online Community which is a phenomenal read.
Having Diana onboard in Accelerator helped us turn a semi-engaged community into an ultra-engaged community where students would get to know each other, regularly ask for help, and even meet up in person all over the world. It was amazing.
Seeing all of this happen in front of my eyes and being a part of it helped me realize just how important it is to have a highly engaged community that comes with your online product. So when I launched my premium online course Ultimate Guide System earlier this year (more on that later), I made connecting with my student a top priority.
And just like in Accelerator, we have built an incredible community of students that constantly help each other our, support and encourage each other, and have each other’s back. I’m actually meeting up with 15+ of my students this Saturday as I’m flying to the Forefront conference, and I can’t wait to meet them in person!
If you’re creating your own online product, then having a highly engaged community will make a huge difference in the amount of success stories that you produce with it. Diana’s guide will help you out a ton with that, and I highly recommend reading it.
Lesson #2: Approach everything you do with excellence
This is the lesson I was able to internalize by working closely with Ramit and seeing him how he ran his company, lead the weekly team calls and made difficult decisions that impacted his business.
I noticed that whatever we were working on at the company, the bar would be set REALLY high. Regardless of whether we were building a new product, running an event or publishing a new blog post. Everything we produced had to be top notch.
Sometimes we spent months or even years developing a product to make it insanely good. We killed off products that weren’t as good as we wanted them to be. We would never release the products that we weren’t 100% happy with to the public.
Of course being excellent at what you do wasn’t always easy. When you’ve spent weeks or months putting something together and only to realize it’s not as good as you thought it is can be painful. Still, having these painful experiences is what opens you up for growth and really allows you to give it your all – day after day, week after week, month after month.
When I came back to running my own online business this year, it felt like I had excellence ingrained in me. I’ve spent almost half a year developing my new premium online course on creating Ultimate Guides through hundreds of conversations and endless hours of research and refinement. I didn’t release the course until I was 100% confident it’s the best online course on the subject on the internet.
Even as I released the course and went through it with my students for the first time, I constantly listened to their feedback to find opportunities to make the course even better. For example, I expanded the course from 10 weeks to 14 weeks to adjust it to the actual time my students needed to complete it. I added extra examples and templates to it to make the implementation even easier, as well as extra support that would allow them to complete it faster.
Whereas I focused on making things “good enough” earlier, I now make sure that I spend the extra time creating the best free content and paid trainings on the internet around the subjects I love talking about. I’m no longer trying to just start a business, now I’m focused on creating an incredible business that impacts millions of people all over the world.
Of course there’re still things I don’t spend a ton of time on (yet), like my website, SEO or Facebook Ads. Those just aren’t important enough yet. But I do make sure that my Ultimate Guides, blog posts, online courses and coaching programs are top notch and really go above and beyond for my students.
Excellence and the patience for chasing it is a lesson that is hard to teach, but by leading by example, Ramit has done it. My message to you is: don’t just dream about building an online business and making some extra money. Think about what building an EXCELLENT business would look like, and start working towards that. It’s worth it.
Lesson #3: Building a team of A-players makes everything 100x easier
One of the best decisions I’ve made while working on Accelerator was taking the initiative to hire a team, so we could grow faster and help our students better, without working ourselves to death.
Marc and Diana are both incredible top performers. They’re hard working, proactive, deeply care about the students they work with, and constantly strive to improve themselves. They’re also normal human beings rather than some uptight executives.
Working together with them was always fun as we constantly joked around, supported and encouraged each other. Our weekly team calls were often the highlight of my week as they were a mix of non-stop laughter and getting a ton of work done in a crazy short amount of time.
Once Diana and Marc came to the team, the growth of Accelerator really took off. We were able to provide a lot more support to our students, throw in additional copywriting and business strategy coaching calls, as well as community events that brought the community closer together.
We were also able to tackle the challenges we were facing together as a team, and come up with innovative solutions that I wouldn’t be able to come up with on my own. All because we were a kick ass team.
The lesson for my business here is to always hire A-players rather than people that are just “ok”. It just makes SUCH a huge difference when your team members are proactive top performers and constantly want your company to succeed and improve every day.
Now I know how to hire and manage my own kick-ass team, and how big of an impact this can make on the growth on my business. I no longer need to worry about finding cheap people to outsource tasks to, and instead focus on hiring top performers that won’t just do their job with minimal effort, but constantly go above and beyond in their work.
Results from 3.5 years of Zero to Launch
When I worked with Ramit on Accelerator, I wanted to keep working on growing my business on the side. Sadly, this wasn’t always possible as I really wanted to do my best at my full time work, and would have little energy left to work on my own business. This sometimes resulted in me not creating months at a time, which I felt super guilty about at the time.
The flip side was that since I front loaded the work and created a lot of evergreen content on my website like my Ultimate Guides, I kept getting a steady flow of traffic and email subscribers to my website even when when I wasn’t actively working on it.
I would get as many as 2,160 new email subscribers a year for those two years:
In other words, my business was still quietly growing on it’s own.
Zero to Launch has taught me how to create high quality content, and I added my own spin on it with Ultimate Guides, a strategy that works remarkably well for me (and now also my students). I share all about how I created my Ultimate Guides to automatically grow my audience in my Ultimate Guide Checklist, an incredibly detailed free e-book on creating Ultimate Guides.
As I restarted working on my own business in December of 2016, I had an idea to teach my readers how to create Ultimate Guides as well, and offered a coaching service to them. I reached out to my email subscribers and past customers to see if they were interested in the idea. Within a few weeks, I secured more than $20,000 in 1on1 coaching contracts, and I knew that I was on to something.
Then, as I worked with my 1on1 clients on creating their Ultimate Guides, I continued to do research around the topic with the goal of creating the best online course on growing your audience with Ultimate Guides. The result of the hundreds of hours of work was my new premium online course called Ultimate Guide System – my biggest, most detailed, and best online course to date.
I initially sold this course for $997 in March of 2017, which generated $36,381 in revenues, making it my biggest product launch to date. I wrote an incredibly detailed post about that product launch on Growthlab, which you can read here.
For the next few months, I focused on working with my Ultimate Guide System students, helping them create their Ultimate Guides as fast as possible and the best possible results with them. Within a few months, over 50% of my students have successfully written their Ultimate Guides (which is an online course success rate that’s unheard of in the industry), and I’ve shared some of their results on my blog:
- How Nick earned $3,049 in consulting revenues with his first Ultimate Guide
- How Diana became a go-to expert in her niche overnight
While I was doing this, I also listened to feedback from my students and used it to create a better and improved Ultimate Guide System 2.0, which launched in July. This lead to another successful product launch that brought in over $32,000, and new happy clients that I’m working with right now.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was nervous when I came back from working with Ramit to running my business full time. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to replicate my success from before, and I feared that because I wasn’t working on it actively, my readers wouldn’t be interested in learning from me any more.
It turned out that I couldn’t have been more wrong. My readers were delighted that I started creating amazing content for them (like my latest Ultimate Guide to Attending Conferences), and they ate it up like chocolate. They were happy to hear from me, happy to join my online courses, and work with me as 1on1 business coaching clients.
To this day, I’m still using the core Zero to Launch strategies to grow my online business. I use the same principles from it to continue to create high quality content. I follow the same framework for launching my online products. Of course I’ve added a lot of new knowledge over the past few years that helps me grow my business faster, but Zero to Launch still serves as a strong foundation for my business.
Lessons from 3.5 years of Zero to Launch
I’ve already shared some of the lessons I got from working with Ramit for 2 years above, so in this section I’ll focus on sharing the lessons that I learned over the last 9-10 months of running my own business full time.
Lesson #1: Create insanely valuable “evergreen” content
When I first went through Zero to Launch more than 3.5 years ago, starting a blog or running an online business selling educational products was just becoming popular. Over the last 3.5 years, it absolutely exploded – now it feels like anyone can start a blog or an online business in a matter of days.
That’s because there’s more online courses and coaching programs than ever that teach you how to start an online business, that cost anywhere from $20 to tens of thousands of dollars to join. There’re also more tools than ever that allow you to set up your blog in a matter of hours, or put an online course on your website in less than a day.
With this reduced barrier to entry, there’s more and more noise out there, but also more decent content out there (as more and more people are taking courses like Zero to Launch, there’re more and more people creating high quality content (or at least content that’s not complete crap). There are endless bloggers that write good blog posts that are 2,000-3,000 words long, have podcasts where they create high quality interviews, and create good online courses.
Now if you’re thinking “shit, that means I’m too late to start my own business now”, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The good news is that more people running online businesses creates more opportunities for you to partner with them and grow your audience faster. It also helps that people are becoming more used in investing in online courses, as they don’t see them as these scammy weird online trainings any more.
Last but not least, this opens up new opportunities for running a business that serves online business owners (for example, Derek Halpern from Social Triggers took advantage of the industry trends by creating a very successful software for creating online courses, called ZippyCourses).
Still, since there’s more and more free (and paid) content available online, it means that you now need to work harder than ever to stand out from your competition and really establish yourself as the #1 expert that everyone wants to learn from and work with. If 10 years ago it was enough to just run a blog, and 3 years ago it was enough to just create 2,000-3,000 word blog posts, that’s not necessarily true today.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to jump-start the growth of your online business and establish yourself as the top expert in your niche is to take a step above creating high quality content, and to focus on creating the best pieces of content on the industry on specific topics that are evergreen and stand that test of time.
For example, I published The Ultimate Guide to Attending Conferences this week, which is by far the most detailed and comprehensive piece of content online on attending conferences (it’s over 27,000 words long). It took me weeks and hundreds of hours to create it, but I know that all of the hard work will pay off many times over over the next few years.
Why? Well, because I know that this piece of content will be incredibly useful to anyone who ever attends a conference. I know it will also help conference hosts help their attendees make the most out of their conferences. It’s a win-win situation. Now think about it. How many conferences are out there? And how many conferences do people go to every year?
My goal is that every time someone goes to a conference, hosts a conference or has a friend attending or hosting the conference, they think of my Ultimate Guide as the best piece of content to read on the topic. I know this guide won’t just be relevant for a few weeks. It will truly be an “evergreen” piece of content that will grow my business for years to come.
If you want to win in today’s world of online business, you need to go above and beyond what everyone else is doing in one way or another, whether that’s by writing an Ultimate Guide or doing something else that’s different and better than what everyone else around you is doing.
Lesson #2: Mastery is the “secret” to charging premium rates
Today there’re more tactics than ever that you can supposedly use to grow your online business. Everyone talks about things like Facebook LIVE, Messenger bots and other stuff. There’s also 1001 way to raise your rates, negotiate higher contracts and increase the prices of your online courses.
Now I’m not saying all of those are bad. In fact, one of my students Nick wrote a phenomenal Beginner’s Guide to Monetizing Facebook LIVE for Your Fitness or Yoga Business. But what I did notice is that people spend WAY too much time chasing shiny tactics and way too little time building their expertise.
Think about it. Who do we most want to work with and learn from? Experts. We want the best basketball coach. We want the best business coach. We want the best online training that will help us get the best results for our business. We love learning from people who are the best at what they do, and we’re willing to pay thousands of dollars in order to do that.
We wouldn’t pay $1,000 for an online course from an average joe who’s average at what he does, but we’d happily pay more than that for a course from someone who’s the best in the world at what they do. Hell, I’m investing $25,000 in joining an elite business mastermind right now which is a ton of money, and yet it’s still a no-brainer for me.
Why am I spending all that money? Not because of some hard pressure sales tactics or marketing tricks. I didn’t even need to be sold on it. I’m doing it because I’ll learn from someone who’s incredibly good at running an online business, and I know that their mentorship will help me take my own business to the next level.
Now I’m realizing more and more that that’s the only “secret” to charging premium rates. The best way to start charging higher rates that your clients will be happy to pay for is to increase your value. As Cal Newport would say, “you have to become so good they can’t ignore you”.
And how do you make that happen? Well, it’s really quite simple, but far from easy. It comes down to thousands and thousands of hours of learning and deliberate practice. This could mean investing in books, taking online courses or hiring a coach to get access to new knowledge. Then there’s the harder part – deliberately practicing to constantly improve your key business skills like copywriting, creating great content, selling, etc. (and of course practicing the skills that you’re teaching to others).
If you’ve ever heard of “the 10,000 hour rule”, this is where it comes into play. It’s the people that put in more deliberate practice that consistently stretches them, pushes them out of their comfort zone and improves their skill sets that make it to the top, and are able to charge premium rates. It’s not fun, it’s not sexy, but it works.
The “secret” to charging premium rates really aren’t marketing tactics. It’s getting better at what you do. If you’re working on starting or growing your online business, remember that you can work on tactics all day long, but if you don’t constantly work on improving your skill sets, you likely won’t be able to charge premium rates, or you’ll charge premium rates but end up with a bunch of unhappy customers as your service or product won’t be worth the money.
Lesson #3: Don’t be an asshole
A few months ago I was working with one of my students on creating her Ultimate Guide, and she was stuck in a rut. She spent all this time THINKING about writing this guide and worrying about what might happen when she published it, but she wasn’t actually getting any writing done. She was stuck in her thoughts.
Since I’m always brutally honest with my students, I told her:
“Hey, don’t be an asshole. Write the guide. If not for yourself, do it for the people that NEED to hear about it. You can’t help them out by sitting on a half-written piece that never gets published”.
Sure enough, she wrote a post-it note that said “don’t be an asshole”, put it on her computer screen and finished the guide in a matter of weeks.
We all sometimes get stuck in thoughts and ideas that we’re afraid to act on. Either we get stuck before even creating something (like writing a blog post, or creating a new course or a coaching program), or we get stuck in the middle, when things get tough, we start overthinking everything and our ideas never end up seeing the light of day.
I’ve experienced both of these situations many many times over the past few years. It’s interesting that I thought about creating an online product about creating Ultimate Guides back in 2015 (I write about this in my product launch write up), and then said to myself that it wouldn’t work out. 2 years later, Ultimate Guide System is now my flagship product that brings in the most revenue for my business.
I also thought about writing my Ultimate Guide to Attending Conferences last year, did the research for it, then got discouraged right before I started writing it and it never saw the light of day. Now that I’ve written and released it, I’m getting raving reviews of it like this:
It’s funny how we’re sometimes our own worst enemies and stand in the way of our success. Now that I’m becoming more and more experienced in running my own online business I’m also becoming more aware of when I do this, catch myself, and act on my instincts immediately rather than letting my brain BS me into thinking that what I have to say isn’t important.
If you’ve ever found yourself not acting or following through with your ideas, I can highly recommend two books: The 5 second rule by Mel Robbins, and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. You’ll love them.
These are just some of the many many lessons I learned from running my own online business using Zero to Launch system, and there’s many many more. If you’ve found these valuable, make sure you get your free copy of The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Star Student in Online Business Courses, as I know you’ll love that one too.
How my life is different 3.5 years from starting Zero to Launch
The past few years have definitely been the years of huge growth for me, and I’m grateful that I’m able to wake up with a smile on my face and do what I love.
Now to be honest, my day-to-day hasn’t changed THAT much since I first wrote this review a few years ago. I still spend a lot of time writing and traveling. I still got out of my way to hang out with some of the top online entrepreneurs out there, and many of them have become my trusted mentors and friends. I still go to a nice restaurant from time to time to have a nice dinner. I still don’t own a yacht yet, though that day will come someday.
The biggest thing that has changed over the past few years is that I put on a TON of muscle because I started working out regularly. You can get an idea for the transformation I’ve gone through by comparing the two photos below:
Right now I spend about 10 hours a week in the gym with my personal trainers who are helping me prepare for my first powerlifting competition that’s happening in a few weeks. My goal right now is to become the Slovenian powerlifting champion, then qualify for the European championships next year and slowly take over the world.
Running my own online business allowed me to make that happen (as I can work out in the mornings when the gym is empty, afford my trainers and have the right mindset to become a champion), and I’m grateful for that. I certainly didn’t see that one coming a few years ago when I dreaded the idea of going to the gym. I guess we all grow.
I’m also working with a phenomenal high performance coach who has managed three of the world’s #1 tennis players, including Novak Djokovic. I just visited him in Israel this summer to watch a friendly basketball between Israel and Slovenia, and it was amazing to be able to take that trip on a 2-day notice.
Things like this would have never happened if I didn’t run my own online business, and I wouldn’t run my own online business if it wasn’t for Zero to Launch.
Is Zero to Launch right for you?
And what can Zero to Launch do for you? Well, it can give you the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want, without financial restrictions.
Do you want to be able to take a month off to be with your family like James? Maybe have the option of quitting your job if you want to? Or maybe you just want to be earning money while you take a trip around the world?
All of this is possible. I’ve done it, James has done it, and more of Ramit’s students have done it:
So right now you’re probably wondering if Zero to Launch will work as well for you as it did for us.
I’ll be honest, Zero to Launch is NOT for everyone.
Zero to Launch is NOT right for you if…
- You want to get rich quick. It’s very likely that you won’t be making $10k/month right off the bat. It took me a few months to release my first product and get my first sales.
- You think that this program won’t work for you because of (insert X excuse). If you disqualify yourself before even putting in the effort, you will never get the results that you want.
- You aren’t willing to commit at least a few hours each week into working on your online business. If your excuse is that you “don’t have time”, then creating your online business just isn’t important enough to you yet.
Zero to Launch IS right for you if…
- You understand that it takes some time to get the ball rolling in the beginning, and that you will be able to benefit from the hard work that you put in now for years to come. You will actually be surprised how many new opportunities will open up for you once you get everything up and running.
- You like to take massive action. The beta-students that got the best results were the ones that didn’t focus on the barriers that were holding them back from success (“I’m not white, tall and extremely good looking like he is”, “I don’t have rich parents”, “I’m from a third world country…”). Instead, they focused on putting in the work and getting the results that they wanted.
- You have the attitude that you will “make the system work for you no matter what”. I do a lot of testing to find out what really works best for me (Facebook advertising? Guest posts? E-book opt-in offer? “free updates” newsletter?), and it’s likely that you will have to do some testing yourself to get the best results. If you love testing and are willing to trust the system, then this course is perfect for you.
If you decide to try out Zero to Launch, keep this in mind:
If you are going to try the course out, I wanted to give you a few tips based on my experiences:
- Set up a good, visible opt-in offer before doing massive promotion. You want to be able to capture the e-mail addresses of your subscribers before you go ahead and promote the website. As an opt-in offer, an e-book and a 7-day boot camp worked well for me. To make sure they’re visible, I use the Plugmatter Feature Box plug-in
- Don’t waste too much time stuck in tactical hell. You don’t need a fancy website to get started. Get a studiopress template and move on! You don’t need fancy webinar software and a complex billing system to create and sell your first product. I used Google Hangouts for the webinar, Paypal to sell the products and Google Drive to give my students access to my content. It’s “good enough” to get started, and these things can always get professionalized later.
- If you ARE stuck, reach out for help. There will be a great private community at Zero to Launch, and many members (including me) will be happy to help you out if you’re stuck with something. We love helping people who are willing to take action and then get results!
Let me help you go from Zero to Launch in MONTHS, not YEARS
I’ll be honest with you. With Ramit’s Zero to Launch system, you will get all the knowledge that you need to create a successful online business.
But in the end, YOU are still the person who will need to put in the work.
There’re some students in the program who take YEARS to earn the first dollar with their online products, while others manage to earn 5 figures in revenue within MONTHS (and I was one of them).
So what separates the successful students from less successful ones?
I figured it out FOR you.
Over the last year or so, I have worked with hundreds of Zero to Launch students, and I’ve talked to many other Zero to Launch case studies like Selena, Nagina, Matt and Naveen. I realized that there are 8 key strategies that successful Zero to Launch students use that others don’t. And then, I combined all of these strategies into a step-by-step system that YOU can use to become a star student in Zero to Launch.
I have put this 8-step system into a 21-page Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Star Student in Online Business Courses, and I want to give this guide to you for FREE, so you can progress with Zero to Launch faster.