Back on the show this week is Sam Gavis-Hughson from Byte-by-Byte.com—he also has a great YouTube channel at YouTube.com/bytebybyte. Sam was last on AskPat 2.0 in Episode 1004 (I accidentally said 1003 in the intro—oops!), where he had a lot of questions about growing his business to the next level. He's back today to tell us all about how it's been going, particularly related to his online courses. Let's dive in!
This is another installment in the Where Are They Now? series that I'm doing here on AskPat 2.0. We'll be checking in with more entrepreneurs from previous coaching calls in the future, plus coaching calls with entrepreneurs you haven't heard from yet—stay tuned! And hey, hit me up on Twitter or Instagram @PatFlynn and let me know what you think. Always excited to hear from you!
Sam starts by summarizing the actions he's taken since our last call, recapping his progress with course launches and other major benchmarks. He compares his current business to its status back in Episode 1004 and tells us what he's learned since then. Sam describes the strategy behind the success of his beta course launch and how he was able to source feedback and adjust his course material to create the best possible experience for his students. Sam wraps up the call by detailing his next steps and future goals for expanding his business.
What You'll Learn:
Discover tactics you can use to create powerful, effective online courses for your students.
AskPat 1047 Episode Transcript
Pat Flynn: What's up, everybody? Pat Flynn here, and thank you for joining me in Episode 1047 of AskPat. My name is Pat Flynn: I'm here to help you make more money, save more time, and help more people too. And today we have another great Where Are They Now? episode; we're bringing back Sam Gavis-Hughson from Episode 1004, which was published back in—let me check my calendar—February of this year. February. So ten months ago, essentially.
And I'm happy to bring him back to give us an update on how things have been going, but before that, I do want to thank today's sponsor, which is FreshBooks. They're always an amazing company, helping us and supporting us with their amazing software to help us with our bookkeeping, our finances, and our invoices. That's especially what I've been enjoying a lot with FreshBooks this year, the invoicing features: The ability for me to, within thirty seconds, create a really professional looking invoice that I can send out to make sure I get paid for a lot of the work I do, especially with when I coach students or do any sort of consulting and things like that. So if you have any students or you bill anybody regularly or even just one time, using a tool like FreshBooks can make it really easy and it can increase the likelihood that you're going to get paid, because they just have that kind of software that allows you to track all that stuff a lot better. So if you want to get access to FreshBooks for thirty days for free, all you have to do is go to FreshBooks.com/askpat and just make sure you enter “Ask Pat” in the “How did you hear about us?” section.
All right. Now, again, like I said, we're talking with Sam who is back from Episode 1004, and Sam's got a great story about how he took a lot of the advice in Episode 1004, especially related to online courses and hiring, and he put that into practice. So let's just see where he's at now. Here we go.
Sam, welcome back to AskPat 2.0. It's been literally a year since you've been on. How are you doing? Welcome back.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: I'm doing great. Thanks for having me. I was looking—it was almost exactly a year ago that we recorded the last episode.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, you were Episode 1004, so you were the third coaching call that we had. To remind everybody what the title of that episode was, it was “How Can I Grow My Audience When I've Done All I Can?” And we knocked out, through that episode—which, again, I recommend everybody listen to—a number of things you were going to do related to your coaching and your website and other things. So just really quick, to start off before we dive in, how have things gone over the last year?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah. I think this is one of those great examples of where things have changed so much in the last year. Because I think when we talked last, I had been working on my business full time for about six months. And so a year is literally two times the amount of time I had been working full time, previous to that.
Pat Flynn: Right.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: So a huge amount has happened. I definitely got a lot of time to experiment with the things we talked about on the last call, which we're doing some guest posting and podcasting, and working on growing my audience in particular. And then I've also been focused a ton on new course development, different coaching options, increasing the price. I think I doubled the price of my coaching like right after the last call.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. I think I was calling you crazy for the price point that you had, and then you doubled it. That's great. So overall, things are good?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah. No, things are going great.
Pat Flynn: Tell us what business is like now for you.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah, so when we talked last, I was just beta testing my first ever course, which ended up going really well. I launched it in January, probably around the time the episode came out, and did about $1,000 in that first launch, which was awesome. It was a $60 course. So it wasn't . . . That was probably thirty or so sales of the course.
Pat Flynn: Which is great.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: And then I've since created another course that is a $300 course instead of $60 course. So that really was instrumental in driving . . . I did my first ever five figure launch just about a month ago, which was really, really exciting. I see so much progress with that, and I'm testing some new stuff with doing group coaching. I think my audience, or the blog traffic, has doubled since the last we talked. The email list is about three times the size. There have been major improvements, to say the least.
Pat Flynn: What would you say overall has been the biggest reason why you've been able to continue to grow?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: That's a really good question. I think that partially it's setting up things in the beginning so that they could continue to grow. So, for example, I had invested pretty early on in creating an ebook that has been my opt-in carrot for basically everything. That's probably 80 percent of the total opt-ins that I've ever gotten, have been from that ebook, and it was a lot of time and it was a lot of energy. But having that and really investing in something that is best in class for my industry has driven a lot of organic referral traffic, and a lot of stuff that I just wouldn't have gotten otherwise. So I've been able to focus more on the courses. I've been able to focus more on the coaching, and honestly, building traffic has been something that I've been thinking about and it's something that I'm kind of coming back to now and really thinking about what that next stage is going to be. But it's not something that I was having to spend a huge amount of time on because I did do all that work up front.
Pat Flynn: I'm reading some of the transcript from our last conversation, and there's a part here where it says, “Yeah, I'd love to be selling twenty courses a month.”
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah.
Pat Flynn: So, hearing that, how do you think you've done related to what you had wished?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: So I remember, I just listened back to it earlier today so that I could refresh my memory as well, and I believe I said, “My goal is 20,000 monthly visitors and twenty sales a month,” and so I'm about half that right now. I did double my traffic from about 5,000 to about 10,000 a month, and the sales have stayed roughly in line with where that is. I think honestly that was one of those things where as I started working on that and also seeing what other projects I could work on, I realized that a better place for me to be focusing my effort was on creating a couple additional products since that one product was such a niche thing. And so I sort of realized that well, one, from doing this course, that there were a lot of prerequisites for that course that people didn't have. And so the second course that I created really addressed a lot of those prerequisites.
Pat Flynn: Oh, interesting. It wasn't like, a step two course. It was like, a step zero course.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah. It's been interesting because I've been creating courses on very specific topics within my very specific niche. So it's been an interesting experience trying to decide what to create too because there is . . . I spent about three months, probably spring of this year, working on a course idea that was something that everyone was asking me for and I really, really wanted to make it work because I know if I had a good course on this, people would buy it, pay a lot of money for it. But after basically spinning my wheels for three months, I realized this was just not something that I was equipped right now to do in the way that I really wanted to do it. And so it's been an interesting experience of like, trying to figure out what are the right things to create and where to focus my energy because I get so many people asking me for so many different things.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. How are you able to manage all that, and, by the way, where are you communicating with your audience to learn all this?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: So this is all through my email list. I think that I actually . . . My original auto responder I created, I used your ebook on. What was it Email List Smart Way, is that right?
Pat Flynn: EmailtheSmartWay.com. Yeah.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Oh, Smart Way. Yeah, so I used that. I used some of the sort of templates that you had in there for structuring that auto responder, and the very first email that I have asks people for, “What are you struggling with?” and that's been a huge driver of . . . That was why I decided to create that first course. It was, so many people asked me for dynamic programming, which is what the course is on, that I realized I, one, had to create the ebook that I created—the very first product I ever created, which was on dynamic programming—and then I decided I would also create a course that would go deeper on that.
So it's really been a lot of communication with my email list, doing surveys, asking them . . . The approach I've sort of taken is, I'll see people asking a lot about something, and they'll try and . . . I'll send out a survey and try and dig deeper on that specific thing. So the thing that they were asking about that didn't really go anywhere was system design, which is sort of more high level design thinking, and it's just not something that I'm particularly skilled at and is not something that there's a lot of information about out there. So I was struggling to come up with a good—really to be able to teach it in the way that I would want to teach it. And then the course that I actually ended up going with is one on recursion, which is another topic that's related to the dynamic programming stuff.
I taught the beta as a live course, so I did it as a series of live webinars, which was a really good learning experience as well because I was able to get so much feedback from that in a way that I just wasn't able to with my other course that I pre-recorded.
Pat Flynn: That's great. I mean, first of all, you're doing all the right things. Congrats, by the way, especially on the new course, and I'm imagining, correct me if I'm wrong, there's a number of new courses that are probably in your head or coming up in the pipeline, right?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Oh, absolutely.
Pat Flynn: That's exciting, and I'm also very thankful that you kind of . . . Even though you had gotten a lot of requests for something you can probably make a lot of money on if you were to sell it, just the fact that you know, in your heart and in your head, that this wasn't the right time or that you couldn't best deliver value to them—I mean, you're doing this for all the right reasons and you're making all the right decisions, because you're basing it off of, “What can I do to help my audience the most?” and that's where your auto responder comes in, that's where this decision to put on hold the systems course for this other way, and the fact that you're launching live is great. Can you walk us through what the sales process was like for that course, despite it being a beta course that wasn't even available yet?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah, absolutely. So to go back even a step further from that, I sent out the survey, and then the next thing that I did was research calls. So I've been working with a coach this year, which has been incredibly helpful, and the thing that he suggested was just batch them all. So I scheduled as many calls with as many survey respondents as I possibly could in one week.
Pat Flynn: How many?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: I think I ended up doing about ten calls.
Pat Flynn: Okay.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Or maybe twelve. So a lot of calls, and got really deep into the topic and tried to figure out, what are the things that people really want in this course. And then I put together basically what was a week long launch, essentially. So it was just a series of emails. I had an application, rather than just letting people buy it, because I wanted to sort of get people a little bit more invested in the idea of participating in the course. So there was an application and then I selected sort of the most promising-looking applicants. Ended up selecting, I think 60 applicants out of about 200. 50 percent of them ended up actually signing up, ended up paying $200 for the course.
Pat Flynn: That's awesome.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Which I think proves something about how if you get people to invest early on, then it's easier to get them to spend money later. Not exactly sure.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, no. That's true. They've said yes a bunch of times before the big yes, which is like, “here's my money.”
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah, exactly.
Pat Flynn: Which is really smart. Okay. So you sign up new students, and how do you communicate with them as you are building the course with them?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah. So I, basically they signed up about two weeks before the first week of the course. So I gave myself a little bit of a buffer to—I already outlined everything, but to really start creating slides and preparing the presentations and stuff. I created a Slack community so that we would all be able to interact with each other.
Pat Flynn: Awesome.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: So we did live Zoom calls, which was really nice. I love using Zoom just because it's so easy to record everything, and people were able to ask questions live on the calls. I gave them homework assignments. I actually graded their homework assignments for the beta so that I could see that they were actually making progress, which was really, really helpful. And then I basically built the thing as I went. So I had collected feedback as I went. Someone suggested I collect feedback on every single lecture—I didn't really call them lectures because that sounds boring, but every class. And so at the end I was like, “Okay. We're going to do Q&A in a minute, but first, before we do a Q&A, here's a link to the survey. Just go take three minutes, fill it out. Let me know what you liked, what you didn't like about this particular class.”
Pat Flynn: Oh wow. You gave people time on the live call to do that?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah. Which was huge.
Pat Flynn: I like that. What percentage of people did it?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: At least 50 percent of the people on each call, which was, I ended up . . . Obviously there was drop off in attendance and stuff over the duration of the course, which was what I expected, and it was also recorded so they could go back to it later. But even the last class, I probably had, out of the thirty students, at least ten people attended live, and I got at least five or six responses to the survey just on that one class.
Pat Flynn: Wow.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: So when taking an aggregate, it's a lot of feedback. And then I did calls with I think six or seven of the students after the course. I was able to ask them what they liked, what they didn't like, basically just get testimonials. So when I relaunched and did that five figure launch, it was really easy because I had all of that data already.
Pat Flynn: Outside of the content that you're teaching, because you were saying some big words earlier that I have no idea what you're talking about—outside of that but in terms of the course itself and how its structured or how you delivered, whatever, what was the most helpful piece of feedback that you got in those surveys or conversations for your course?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: The biggest thing for me—and this may or may not be relevant, it'll be relevant to some people, depends on what you're teaching—was that I was trying to . . . That I needed to simplify things more. And this was particularly relevant in this case because I'm talking about very technical stuff. So, for example, I'll put code on the screen, so like, on the slides, and it can be very difficult for people to actually parse through and understand like, what is going on here, when they see that on the slide.
Pat Flynn: Okay.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: So I think for a lot of people that was kind of overwhelming. And so I'm actually just wrapping up the . . . I'm teaching it live a second time, and I'm just wrapping that up now.
Pat Flynn: Oh, interesting.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: So for this time around, I've been really focusing on how can I . . . I either limit the amount of stuff on a slide, because obviously that's one way to do it. But what I've been really focusing on more, because I want people to see the whole context, but very clearly, like highlighting on the slide, “this is what I want you to focus on.” So like, graying out everything else, or just visually cuing them into, “here's what I'm talking about,” and then I can describe in a much more sequential way, rather than them having to sort of look at everything at once and become overwhelmed by everything.
Pat Flynn: Right. I mean, how amazing for you to get that feedback right away so you know how to adjust and adapt, versus what many people do, is they create the course in the way they think it should be created and then sell it. I would imagine that if you were to do that, having things so complicated and all the coding and stuff, it would either overwhelm people or they'd ask for refunds. It's so cool that they kind of are able to help influence the creation, because they're also benefiting from that. They know the next lesson's going to be adjusted because of that. So you did it a first time, so you didn't take any of those recordings and turn it into kind of just an evergreen course. You decided to launch again. Was this so that you could nail down the content perfectly that time?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah. So I'm nailing it down this time, and then my plan from here is I think I'm actually going to record everything in smaller chunks. Either I'm going to take the existing recording and break it up into chunks, or I'm going to rerecord it in smaller chunks. But it's really just a matter of, I want to refine the content as much as possible before I commit it to like, an evergreen course.
Pat Flynn: Okay.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: And part of the reasoning behind that is basically what you were saying, is I feel like even for my last course I'm just not happy with a lot of things about it and I really want to go back and rerecord it. And I feel like it's a really hard thing for me to justify doing because people are still buying it and people still get value out of it. But I know in my heart of hearts that it could be a lot more valuable, and I don't want to have that same thing happen with this course. So I really want it to be . . . Obviously there are still going to be things I'll want to change and there'll still be improvements that could be made. But I feel like I'm a lot closer to what that final—to what I want that final product to be than I am with the other course.
Pat Flynn: When you create the final product, would it be a reshoot of everything, or would it be recordings from the second go around?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: I'm not sure. I'm thinking a reshoot. I'm pretty good at doing all these things in one take, so I don't think the reshoot would take a huge amount of time. But I'm honestly not sure.
Pat Flynn: It could be done either way. I think that if you have the time and you're able to do it, then the third time around's going to be third time's the charm. It's going to be even better than your second, which was better than your first. But several people, after going a second time around, they'll take those recordings, and as long as there's no sort of interaction in the middle of those videos, then they still would be worthwhile to put into a course because they give all the information, and nobody would know that they were done live because it's the information. So either way would be fine.
Going to your website a little bit, you've doubled your traffic over the past year. I'm curious to know, what has helped you do that?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: I think there are a couple factors there. One is definitely just organic traffic and getting myself out there more. That's actually something that I'm going to be trying to focus on a lot more in the coming couple months. I just joined Brian Dean's SEO That Works course, which I'm really excited about.
Pat Flynn: That's awesome.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah, I know. He does such good content, and I'm really . . . I just started going through the course. I'm super excited about that. And I think there's so much opportunity there because there's a lot of traffic to these fairly general terms that are very closely related to what I'm teaching that have very low competition. Generally speaking, the marketing in my industry is not great because people I think tend to be resistant to marketing. So I think there's a lot of opportunity there. And then the other thing that's been really helpful for me actually, is YouTube. So I have a YouTube channel. I have probably 13,000 or 14,000 subscribers now. I don't get a huge amount of traffic from that, but the traffic I do get is really targeted. So I mention my ebook in all of the videos, and then when I look at the traffic, I'm getting a 20 percent conversion rate on that traffic. So even though it's a small percentage of the total traffic, it converts really, really well.
Pat Flynn: What's the channel name?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: It's called Byte by Byte. The site is Byte-by-Byte.com but the YouTube channel doesn't have dashes in it.
Pat Flynn: Got it. Yeah. You are over 14,000 subscribers, over a half million video views, which is awesome, and it looks like you're steadily growing between twenty and thirty subscribers a day, which is great. I'm looking at a website called Social Blade.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: I was going to say, you know more about my channel than I do now.
Pat Flynn: No, I'm parsing all this data through a website called Social Blade, which is great. Yeah, it's great. It'll give you future projection growth, some more statistics, and it'll tell you . . . It's telling me, for example, you're going to hit 20,000 subscribers, probably in April of next year.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Sweet.
Pat Flynn: And you'll pass over a million views in probably June, which is cool. Yeah, that's a great channel. I've been doing a lot of YouTube as well.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah, I've been enjoying your videos.
Pat Flynn: Thanks. If anybody was wondering what that name was we mentioned earlier, that was Brian Dean from Backlinko.com. Definitely one of the top SEO guys, and he has a large focus on YouTube SEO as well. I didn't know if you knew that, but he has some courses on YouTube SEO specifically, which I've taken.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: A YouTube channel as well.
Pat Flynn: So any—in the last few minutes here, any big questions or concerns moving forward that I can maybe help you through, or you just chugging along? It sounds like you have a good plan.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah, I mean, mostly just chugging along. I'm really going to be trying to drive hard on the SEO stuff, and then I'm also, the thing that I've been looking at doing a lot more of is outreach to other people in my industry and trying to develop relationships there, because that's just not something I've done. And I know that having those relationships, even if nothing tangible comes of it, it would still be valuable. In an ideal world, I think there's a lot of mutual benefit that we could offer to each other. So, for example, I'm going to be reaching out to a lot of tech recruiters who are in tech recruiting firms, to see if it's in their best interest for their clients to do as well as they can in their interviews. Because if their clients do better in their interviews, they get a better salary and the recruiters get paid a percentage of that salary. So I'm hoping that we can come up with something with some recruiting firms where they can refer traffic to us to help their clients out, and then potentially doing some sort of affiliate deal with the courses that we have. Those are sort of the two main things that I'm going to be pushing on, but . . .
Pat Flynn: I like that idea. I mean, you have built an amazing asset. You have a YouTube channel with nearly 15,000 subscribers. I mean, people will do a double take when they see that and they'll want to work with somebody who has that kind of influence. So I like that plan, and just keep going with the course. Man, I'm so proud of you and really excited to see where you end up next year. We'll have to connect with you again to see kind of how this continues to grow, and hopefully exponentially.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah. I would love to do it.
Pat Flynn: Thanks, Sam. I appreciate you, and where, one more time, can people go to find out more about what you're doing?
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Yeah, you can check out my site: Byte-by-Byte.com. Or if you want to type in “dynamic programming book,” that might be easier because that'll take you to my ebook.
Pat Flynn: Cool, man. Thanks, Sam. Appreciate you. Thanks for coming back on.
Sam Gavis-Hughson: Awesome. Thanks, Pat.
Pat Flynn: All right, hope you enjoyed that episode and the catch up with Sam. Sam, I know you listen to the episodes, I just want to congratulate you for taking action, especially within a year. I mean, a lot can happen in a year, and, of course, this year is almost over. So 2019 is just around the corner.
And for those of you who want to get coached just like Sam did and potentially come back again a second time to see how you've been doing, all you have to do is go to AskPat.com, scroll down that page, and you'll be able to see an application button. Fill out that application. I cannot possibly select everybody, but I will not select you if you don't try. So I will let you know later on at a later date if we select you, and then if we do, we'll coordinate and I will coach you through the process of whatever it is you need help with. Include as much information as you can in that application so that I can have a better understanding of where you're at and also what I can do to help and serve you and everybody else who listens.
And speaking of that, I just want to thank you all. Everybody who this year has listened to AskPat, even if this is your first episode. If this is your first one, I'd recommend going back to 1004 to listen to the first one Sam was on. It's just amazing to see the kind of progress a person can make once they get even a little bit of advice, and hopefully something in any of the episodes this year has given you any sort of direction. If so, I hope to hear about it one day.
Hey, thank you all so much. I appreciate you, and I look forward to serving you in the next and last episode 2018. Talk to you soon. Bye.
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